With Ryan Kelly missing his first game after suffering a right foot injury against Clemson Tuesday, Duke lost their first game of the season in their first ACC road contest of the year.
The Blue Devils (15-1) fell to the Wolfpack (14-2), 84-76, as Seth Curry left the game late in the second half after injuring his left ankle when he slipped on a cut he made. Curry poured in a team-high 22 points off 8-for-16 shooting, including 5-for-10 from beyond the arc, and chipped in five rebounds. Mason Plumlee posted his 10th double-double of the season of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Plumlee also shot 7-for-10 from the field and added four steals.
Duke’s transition defense was bad, particularly in the first half, as N.C. State scored about half of their points (41) in transition in the first 20 minutes of the game. The Blue Devils did a poor job of locating shooters early (especially Scott Wood) and were simply outrun by the Wolfpack. However, Duke did rebound better than the typically did and their presence on the offensive glass led to easy buckets.
Despite the loss, Quinn Cook had a nice 17-point, seven-assist performance, although he turned the ball over four times and shot 6-for-16 from the field. He was able to get inside the paint and penetrate the defense but didn’t finish around the bucket very well. He also shot poorly from three-point land, going 1-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Plumlee had arguably the best game of any Blue Devil because of his inside presence and high efficiency from the floor. However, with Duke only shooting 6-for-20 from three-point land, he should’ve been fed the ball more to get higher percentage shots for the offense. One of those guards that didn’t get the ball to Plumlee as much as he should’ve was Rasheed Sulaimon, who missed all 10 of his field goal attempts and only scored four points.
Curry also played well for Duke but missed the last few minutes of the game — an obviously important stretch — when he made a cut off the ball on a wet spot of the floor. Post-game reports indicate that the injury doesn’t seem very serious but when you combine this injury with his other leg problem, it’s unclear how much time Curry will miss — if any.
Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson were the two guys who filled in with Kelly out. Hairston had a solid eight-point, five-rebound effort in 25 minutes while Jefferson flashed his potential with 10 points and four rebounds on 5-for-7 shooting in just 12 minutes. However, he fouled and simply couldn’t defend N.C. State’s bigs at times.
Despite the injuries and the fact that N.C. State was the pre-season ACC favorite and ranked coming into this game, it’s still a game the Blue Devils could’ve won. It’s promising that they were able to play well in their first true road game of the season against a good N.C. State squad without Kelly and Curry for the last part, but it’s clear how important Kelly is.
Duke next plays Thursday at home as they take on Georgia Tech (10-4) at 9pm on ESPN.